PartnershipsGround BreakingProduction

AU and Econet in trial phase of ground-breaking home grown technology that will allow dairy farmers to significantly increase milk production

AU and Econet Smart collar demonstration meeting

 

13 September 2018
Story by
Jeanette Dadzie
IPAO Correspondent
Cows are in abundance on the African continent however realising the potential wealth that these precious and valued livestock hold is still a reality that many farmers on the continent fail to realise. In some sub-Saharan African countries, cows produce below 200 litres of milk per year, compared to over 12,500 litres per cow in some developed countries. A common thread that unites the story of low agricultural output and productivity on the continent is not only that of a lack of access to capital and value addition but also lack of investment in technology that will facilitate the increase of yields. Africa University is looking to bridge this gap.


Through the i5 Hub, Africa University and Econet are positioned to transform the dairy industry in Zimbabwe through the development of a smart collar that will detect estrus in dairy cattle. estrus is a period in which peaks of fertility and capabilities of conceiving are realised in female mammals.


Traditionally, this process is monitored using one or a combination of the following methods- visual observation, chin ball markers, Kramer estrus Mount Detectors, teaser animals, progesterone and through reviewing videotape footage of cattle behaviour and various computerized devices. The collar has been designed to help improve efficiency in large scale farming as it monitors vital signs in animal behaviour.

 

The smart collar has a cloud based database on NBIoT which is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) radio technology standard that has been developed to enable a wide range of devices and services to be connected using cellular telecommunications bands. NB-IoT is a narrowband radio technology designed for the Internet of Things (IoT), and is one of a range of Mobile IoT (MIoT) technologies standardized by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) (www.upowertek.com) .


Telecommunications giant Econet Wireless is the perfect partner for the project as the collar will transmit data to the Econet database which will be accessed by Africa University users across physical devices through web applications. With robust engineering and rugged design, the technology has a battery life of 5 years and is dust as well as water resistant allowing the technology to operate seamlessly, accurately and with little to no maintenance. Reliability will be in-built and guaranteed with data updated to the database at a rate of 3 hours from the last update.

 

Through the partnership, Econet Wireless will be offering systems support with AU being the custodians of all access rights and to full system functionality. The collar is entering its first test phase with the AU herd of dairy cattle being the test herd from which the technology is set to grow.


Detecting estrus and successful impregnation of a cow are the single most important factors to consider on a dairy farm. The accurate and efficient detection of estrus in dairy cattle is an important and essential component of a good reproductive management program for dairy farmers and failure to detect estrus or errors in estrus detection are the two primary causes of poor reproductive performance and low reproductive efficiency.


Inadequate heat detection can be disastrous for dairy farmers and affects herd profitability in a number of ways. Undetected estrus results in longer calving intervals, lower lifetime milk production and fewer calves. Breeding cows unsuitable for insemination leads to decrease conception rates and wasted male specimens and time which both are very costly. Combinations of unrecognized estrus and low conception rates may lead to culling of normal cows and insemination of pregnant cows mistakenly identified in estrus causing abortions (Heersche. G)


The market for wearable technology for animals is expected to grow from around $1 billion currently to $2.5 billion by 2025. The trend is part of the larger movement toward precision agriculture, where technology is woven into every aspect of a farmer’s life from the monitoring of vital signs to the tracking of stray animals from the herd (modernfarmer.com).